This week's column is a straightforward look at where fantasy hoops stats can be found, both generally across the top-175 players and regarding specific players. If you're losing assists each week, for instance, you're unlikely to get much help on the waiver wire. Only one guy outside the top-150 is averaging 5+ assists and that's Rajon Rondo, who has modest overall value but is averaging 5.6 dimes per game. There's a lot to cover, so let's dive in.
For all categories in 8-cat leagues, we'll look at charts across the top-175, followed by a quick look at where the stat is concentrated. Let's start with scoring.
Unsurprisingly, points are heavily concentrated in the top third of fantasy values. Unlike some other categories, though, every player gets at least some points. If you have a surplus of rebounds, you can probably flip a guy like DeAndre Jordan for a late-round scorer such as Collin Sexton, Dennis Schroder or Dillon Brooks. That said, without a few bona fide 20-point scorers on your squad, you'll be hard-pressed to compete in head-to-head leagues (or season-long roto, for that matter). Look at the line for guys scoring 25+ points per game -- they're all inside the top-40 for overall value. Points are also the 'headline' stat people notice the most -- scoring 35 points gets far more attention that getting four steals, even if the fantasy impact is roughly equivalent.
There are of course plenty of big men who just don't hit 3-pointers, even in today's NBA which emphasizes 'stretch fives' -- every center in the league is at least attempting to add a corner 3-pointer to their arsenal. Most guys hit a few 3-pointers at this point, though, and they're readily available well past the top-100 players. Yes, James Harden is in a category of his own. But outside that top-100 range you can still find guys like Joe Harris (2.85 per game), J.J. Redick (3.40), Taurean Prince (2.75) and Duncan Robinson (2.90). Specialists abound. It's one of the easiest categories to find on the waiver wire, or via a low-end trade.
There are of course some early-round elite rebounders, led by Andre Drummond at 16.9 per game. As this chart shows, however, you can pick up boards at a wide variety of price-points. Don't want to orchestrate a blockbuster just to shore up your rebound numbers? How about a deal for mid-round guys like Jarrett Allen or Wendell Carter Jr.? Someone offered me Andrew Wiggins for WCJ in a league recently and I initially turned it down because it's a two-center league and I couldn't afford to give up a big man. After checking the waiver wire, though, I saw Jakob Poeltl and grabbed him, then offered up WCJ for Wiggins.
I haven't talked about this in any columns or podcasts, but Wiggins is one of the nicest surprises of the fantasy season. The scoring is a given at 24.8 points per game, but he's also shooting efficiently (46.2%) with a spike in 3-pointers (2.3), assists (2.3) and even defensive stats (1.2 blocks, 0.7 steals). If he gets his FT% closer to 80% we could be looking at top-40 value. The Wolves have the fourth-fastest pace in the league, up from 13th last year and 23rd in 2017-18, so credit coach Ryan Saunders for helping to "unlock" Wiggins' potential.
Some low-end rebounders to keep an eye on include Moses Brown (ridiculously foul-prone but one injury away from being thrust into the lineup in a thin frontcourt), Chris Silva (the per-minute blocks and swats are impressive), and Jordan Bell. Any of those guys would need an injury to push them into fantasy relevance, of course. Players you might target right now are Kevon Looney (11th in boards per 36 minutes... albeit in a tiny sample and he's likely on a minute-limit for the foreseeable future), Derrick Favors (on plenty of waiver wires after a long absence, but seems to be over his back injury), Ivica Zubac (needs more minutes but is getting 8.0 points, 6.4 boards and 1.1 blocks on great percentages in 16.0 minutes) and Jakob Poeltl.
I drafted Poeltl in plenty of leagues and cut him in almost as many, but he's been resurgent lately and is coming off a monster game in double-OT on Tuesday -- six points, 15 rebounds, five assists, five blocks and one steal in 41 minutes. He's been a key part of the Spurs' past three wins and they can't ignore anything that leads to success right now, so I expect Poeltl to remain a fixture in the frontcourt. Go get him.
As mentioned in the intro, assists remain perennially difficult to acquire on the waiver wire. Your best bets for cheap dimes are guys like Rajon Rondo, Isaiah Thomas, Tomas Satoransky, Goran Dragic or Derrick Rose. Except for Rondo, those guys are probably owned...mostly because they contribute dimes. The stark curve in the trendline on this chart is one reason I'm a proponent of grabbing at least one elite point guard in the early rounds. Devonte' Graham was a rare late-round breakout and his 7.7 assists per game are eighth-most in the league, ahead of guys like Damian Lillard, Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal. Malcolm Brogdon has also surpassed expectations (19.4 points, 8.0 dimes, 4.9 boards with across-the-board stats), Fred VanVleet has been exceptional, and guys like Ricky Rubio and Jeff Teague are giving you assists despite a mid-to-late draft position. Every other top-tier source of dimes was costing you an early pick on draft day. It's something to remember for next season, as this situation repeats itself every year.
Steals are all over the place, in a good way. Every top-15 player gets at least 1.0 per game, a streak that ends with Joel Embiid (0.9) and Brandon Ingram (0.9). Unlike points or dimes, though, you can find some elite thieves all the way through the top-175. That opens plenty of trade opportunities to quickly get better in steals (or waiver wire pickups, depending on your league). Kris Dunn is fading in a hurry after a hot start this season, but he's still averaging 1.5 steals in his past four games -- he's also been around 30 minutes in two straight, which is reason enough to scoop him up. DeAndre' Bembry, Shabazz Napier, Donte DiVincenzo and Frank Ntilikina are also low-end guys you could grab for a boost in steals. It's worth watching Matisse Thybulle closely, as he's been a defensive-stat monster when given enough playing time, and Elfrid Payton could also be useful whenever he returns from his strained hamstring (he did some limited on-court work last weekend).
I've referred to blocks as a 'boom or bust' category in that most players either get them or don't. The mass of players averaging under 0.5 per game really aren't moving the needle for you, unless you get lucky -- maybe you catch Danny Green on a four-game week when he manages to block six shots. For the most part, though, this is a category in which you need one or two headline producers like AD, Jonathan Isaac, Brook Lopez or last season's blocks leader, Myles Turner. The scarcity of swats is also the reason Mitchell Robinson's disappointing play hasn't resulted in him being cut -- 8.5 points (67.9% FGs, 61.2% FTs), 6.6 rebounds, 0.6 assists and 0.6 steals is borderline in most leagues. Add 1.9 blocks per game, though, and it's more palatable.
As I mentioned in a recent column, this is a category I watch closely for per-minute stats. Guys like Robinson and Nerlens Noel only need 18-20 minutes to block a few shots and make a fantasy impact, so who might be next? John Henson is intriguing since Ante Zizic has faded and there are two glaring shutdown candidates in the frontcourt -- Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson. Robert Williams is likely to tease us with his potential all season long, and he'd likely need an injury to spring him loose -- he didn't do much with Enes Kanter hurt to start the season, but I think he's proven to coach Brad Stevens that he can be a plus-player for 25+ minutes if required. Other guys I'd consider if an injury opened more playing time include Goga Bitadze, Luke Kornet, Chris Boucher, Skal Labissiere and Bruno Caboclo. Blocks are hard enough to find that specialists are often worth holding even if they do almost nothing else for your team.
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Because it's dominated by PF/Cs, I'm not surprised to see weighted FG% cleave closer to rebounds and blocks. Which is to say, you can find a solid FG% option from 1-175. Brandon Clarke doesn't need huge volume to make a strong impact -- he's shooting a stellar 63% from the field on his 8.1 attempts. Unfortunately, owners need to decide if they can survive with him racking up DNPs on a week-to-week basis after he aggravated his left oblique injury. The same goes for Jarrett Allen (67% on 6.8 attempts) and teammate DeAndre Jordan (69% on 4.9 attempts). Target those guys if you need to boost your FG%, but my preferred strategy is to jettison the guys who are tanking your average. If you acquired Richaun Holmes, the impact on your FG% would be about the same as trading away Lauri Markkanen or Mike Conley. Those guys contribute in other categories, of course, but in 8-cat and 9-cat settings I'm never a fan of keeping poisonous percentages in your lineup. Trade them for comparable value without the FG% or FT% baggage.
Speaking of FT%, look at what Giannis Antetokounmpo is doing. A morbid 58.4% on 11.1 attempts puts him at a historically-bad FT% impact for fantasy. It also skews the entire chart, since his z-score is so low it necessitates adding nearly 1/4 of the y-axis. That also makes it harder to appreciate that strong, weighted FT% is very much concentrated in the top-30. Danilo Gallinari is the only guy after 30 with a z-score of at least 1.5, and the chart (excluding Giannis) looks very similar to points and assists. It's harder to find a great FT% asset on the waiver wire than it is to find FG%, too, as is evident just by comparing the two charts. I'm also wondering what's going on with Jarrett Allen, who shot 77.6% from the line as a rookie, 70.9% last year, and is at 58.0% this season. I think he must trend up, so I'm all for floating a trade offer.
That concludes this week’s Numbers Game! If you have any questions or insights, you can always find me on Twitter @Knaus_RW.